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A CurtainUp Review
Anne of Green Gables

By Julia Furay

You never know what's around the bend
You just might find a bosom friend

— Anne, singing "Around the Bend."
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
A century has gone by since Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables about an 11-year-old orphan girl mistakenly sent to brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert instead of the boy they had in mind to help out at Green Gables, their farm on Prince Edward Island. Anne Shirley lives on as one of the most beloved heroines of children's literature, and no wonder. She's spunky. She's funny. She's imaginative. She's awkward. Most of all, Anne, despite all her talk of the "depths of despair," is vibrantly alive and charismatic.

A Google search for Anne of Green Gables will bring up 1,610,000 entries which includes links to a free Project Gutenberg edition (, a sequel, a popular film version, and a 1960s Canadian musical. Now a brand-new tuner has arrived at the Lucille Lortel Theater. This welcome new opportunity to spend time with Anne Shirley, also marks the return of its creators, Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford, to the Off-Broadway scene —actually a double return since in addition to Anne of Green Gables, the women will also be performing in Getting My Act Together Again at 59E59 (Editor's Note: To be reviewed at CurtainUp).

Though Cryer (book and lyrics) and Ford (music) have streamlined the book into just ninety minutes, they have managed to incorporate most of the highlights of Anne's story: Her adoption by brittle spinster Marilla (Bethe B. Austin) and Marilla's kindhearted brother Matthew (Erick Devine). . . her discovery of "bosom friend" Diana (Jessica Grové). . . her love-hate relationship with handsome and clever Gilbert Blythe (Andrew Gehling). . . her eventual triumph. Though all the best parts are in evidence, we do miss out on some of the real delights, like Anne's overwhelmingly imaginative stories and most of the peripheral characters. It's all quite familiar and cozy, and very much geared to a core audience of young girls around Anne's age at the start of the show, though the ten and eleven year-olds' younger sisters will find enough to enjoy.

Ford's music, backed by a three-piece trio, is easy on the ears, tuneful and likable, if not quite memorable. While there are no real standout songs, there are plenty of them, all smartly woven into the story. The lyrics are often pulled right from Montgomery's words, with Anne singing of kindred spirits and bosom friends just as she speaks about them in the original book.

Director Tyler Marchant, like Ford and Cryer, has staged the show with an eye to the kids in attendance, encouraging the actors to bring cheer and ample jokiness to their roles—perhaps a bit too much of the latter with Anne, a plucky performance by the talented Piper Goodeve, occasionally playing her role for laughs more than is strictly necessary. Austin's Marilla shows her soft side almost immediately, Josie Pye (one of several roles played by Alison Faircloth) is pretty much the dim-witted but well-meaning friend all along, rather than fransformed from an initially nasty snob. The emphasis is on brightness which is also reflected in Beowulf Borritt's scenic design with its colorful flowers and blue skies. Thus even though the death of a major character is included, it's over quickly and Anne's grief is not really emphasized.

While the adults may wish Cryer and Ford had retained a little more of the quirkiness, imagination and subtlety of Montgomery's book, this is a solid adaptation that catches much of the fun of the original with an attractive and accomplished score. All in all, a good way to introduce kids to Anne's world.

Book and lyrics: Gretchen Cryer
Music: Nancy Ford
Based on the book by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Directed by Tyler Marchant

Cast: Bethe B. Austin (Marilla), Erick Devine (Matthew), (Woman), Andrew Gehling (Gilbert Blythe), Piper Goodeve (Anne), Jessica Grové (Diana Barry), Heather Mac Rae (Rachel), Michael Mendiola (Man) the Project Gutenberg link is broken
Set Design: Beowulf Borritt
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Clifton Taylor
Sound Design: Eric Shim
Piano/Conductor: W. Brent Sawyer
Cello: Will Martina
Woodwinds: Jeremy Clayton

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission
Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, 212-279-4200;
From 3/23/07 to 5/5/07; opening 3/29/07
Weds @ 2 pm, Thurs @ 10:30 am, Fri @ 7pm, Saturday @ 2 and 7pm; Sun @ 1 and 4pm. No performances on April 1. No 1pm performance on April 8.
Tickets: $25
Reviewed by Julia Furay based on March 25 performance.
Musical Numbers
  • Overture/ The Trio
  • Around the Bend/ Anne
  • A Pretty Kettle of Fish/ Marilla, Matthew, Anne
  • I Can Stay/ Anne
  • It's the Strangest Thing/ Rachel
  • Kindred Spirits/ Anne, Matthew
  • Making Up for Lost Time/ Anne, Diana
  • The Use of the Colon/ Mr. Philips, Anne, Josie, Gilbert, Diana
  • Two Weeks/ Gilbert, Anne
  • It Was Not Because of Gilbert Blythe/ Anne, Diana
  • Drunk!/ Rachel, Mrs. Barry, Anne, Marilla, Matthew
  • The Clock Keeps Ticking/ Anne, Diana, Mary Jo
  • It's the Strangest Thing (reprise)/ Rachel, Woman, Postmaster
  • First Day at the Academy/ Anne
  • It's Nice to Know/ Anne, Gilbert
  • Around the Bend (reprise)/ Anne
  • Making Up for Lost Time (reprise)/ Anne, Gilbert
  • Finale/ Company
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